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Impromptu Freezer Cooking Day: Preparing the Kitchen

We’ve been busy as beavers this morning! I’m finally sitting down for a coffeebreak while the children watch Jelly Telly.

Breakfast was Oatmeal with Turbinado and Mini Chocolate Chips. I think I won some big brownie points with the children for letting them have chocolate for breakfast.

I found some Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips marked down to $0.99 per bag at the health food store on Saturday night, so I’ve been a bit more lenient with dolling out chocolate chips around here. Just don’t ask me how many handfuls I’ve consumed in the last few days, okay? 😉

Then it was time to clean the kitchen. I have no idea how it manages to collect the messes it does in such a short period of time. It was completely clean yesterday afternoon! The only good thing is that I’ve found if I try to have it all cleaned up at least once a day, it never becomes overwhelmingly unmanageable.

Much better! The children all settled in to do some crafts at the kitchen table while I started in on my Freezer Cooking List.

Next up: Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Bread Dough and Chicken

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  • Caroline says:

    Your blog is such a blessing. I just wanted to convey that your kitchen is lovely.

    • Crystal says:

      A pretty kitchen was one thing I was really hoping for when we were looking for a house. I spend a lot of time cooking and having a lovely workspace just makes it so much more enjoyable. (I cooked in an apartment “galley kitchen” for a few years when we were first married!)

      When we walked into this house and I saw the kitchen, I almost squealed. I love it, love it, love it — especially the windows and openness. I feel so blessed and undeserving, but I’m trying to make the most of it. We especially have loved being able to have others over into our kitchen/dining room for meals.

  • Becca says:

    I want your kitchen it’s so pretty even in the so called messy picture

  • Carol says:

    Yum! Your breakfast looks very good.

    And, I love how you think your kitchen is a mess. I would take your “mess” over mine any day 🙂 It’s funny how we see our home and then how others see it and think “What mess?”. You have a very nice kitchen!

  • Jenn says:

    Mess? Mess? That’s not a mess! That’s just some stuff out. When you have more hands that can reach stuff, you’ll know what a real mess is!

    I used to try and clean up spotless after every meal, but then I was spending all day cleaning the kitchen and no time anywhere else. So now I do it once at night after dinner, everything else just gets stacked in the sink for later.

    • Crystal says:

      😉 Having three children is helping me to “lower my standards” of perfection in a good way.

      I often have to remind myself, “We live here; it’s not supposed to look like a catalog.” (Not that my house ever looks like a catalog, but I do love having it clean and picked up. I’m learning that messes can sometimes just mean we’re having fun, enjoying life and, hopefully, being productive. 🙂

    • carrie atkinson says:

      Totally agree :)! Your dirty kitchen looks great compared to what my kitchen looks like when it is dirty- someday I will figure out how to do better!!

  • Courtney says:

    Oh yes, I have often wondered how my house can go from clean to messy in the blink of an eye! Erma Bombeck said it best: “Cleaning the house while the children are growing is like shoveling snow while it’s still snowing.” 🙂

    • corie says:

      good one. i say cleaning the house while the kids are awake is like brushing your teeth while eating an oreo cookie… lol…
      ive learned to give each child a job and do the rest myself. their still gonna make a mess but atleast im not doing it all. 4 kids… i have each pick up somthing. ie: toys, cloths, shoes and misc things off the floor

  • Emily says:

    Thanks for trying! That is not a mess. You just opened the dishwasher, moved some chairs and threw that towel on the floor. I could show u a mess. In all kindness!!!

    I actually have more energy for kitchen cleaning in the morning after breakfast (5 days out of 7 it’s oatmeal with banana and cinnamon, sometimes add pb).

    My slow cooker sweet and sour flank steak is in the pot and on high! And and and I cleaned up the dishes, too!

  • Kim says:

    I was thinking how lovely your kitchen is too!

    Can I ask why you use turbinado?

    In your Brown Bag Burritos what kind of Enchillada sauce do you use?
    Is it in a can?

    I baked a cake and I am slow roasting a pot roast in the oven. It does help warm things up! Doing lots of laundry and running the dryer is helping too! 🙂

    Kim in Cali

  • heather says:

    Your honesty about how quickly the kitchen can become messy put me at such ease just now! I go through the same thing here. It amazes me how quickly dishes pile up with 2 boys under 3, during the course of a day. The little one finds climbing into the dishwasher too fun, so I get it loaded and unloaded while he and his big brother have lunch. I discovered if I rinse as I go and wash the big stuff after bedtime, I’m not overhwelmed.

    Thank you for all of your inspirations. I could not fit freezer cooking in today, but because of your impromptu day, it made me realize I’m overdue for one!
    Planned it for Saturday…not much else to do here in PA…been buried in snow pretty much since Christmas!

    Thank you again!

  • Tammy says:

    Love the windows in the eating area.

  • Diana says:

    Crystal, you have a great kitchen and love your posts. I agree, it’s about living life, not a photo shoot for a catalog, though your kitchen would qualify for one!

    Courtney, great quote from Erma that I will share with my friends who have little kids. My daughter is 11, so I don’t think I qualify for that quote. I’ll have to think of another reason! 🙂

    Jenn, I try to do the same and get the kitchen all cleaned up after dinner (I’m a big proponent of clean-as-you-cook). If I don’t, then my goal is to get the kitchen back in order the following morning. However, it sure is nice to wake up to a clean kitchen. It helps set the tone for my whole day.

  • Michelle says:

    This might be a silly question to some, but may I ask where is all your things in your kitchen? My cabinets feel overwhelming to me with stuff, but stuff I use on a daily basis. Toaster, Kitchenaid Mixer, Keurig coffee machine, 3 crocks (1 by stove for wooden spoons and cooking ustensils, 1 by mixer for scrapers, rolling pin, etc… and 1 for knives, scoopers, etc…), sugar and flour containers, decorative recipe basket holder, flat small radio that also plays my mp3. I thought about trying to put things away that I don’t use all that often and I managed to put the can opener and ice tea maker down under cabinet, however, I use the ice tea maker almost everyday and drag it out. I don’t know that I would want to drag everything out everyday to have to use it and I’m afraid I would not be able to find enough space in cabinets to house everything. But I love the clean slick look by not having everything on cabinets as well. Seems like it would be easy to keep things wiped down and no chance for anything to be hiding behind other things. Thanks so much!

  • Melissa N says:

    I was sick for two days, so I did the bare minimum of feeding my children (2 and 4) and putting on a DVD. In two days, it looks like my house exploded, especially the kitchen and playroom!! Have ya’ll ever read that story about the stay-at-home mom? Here’s the link:

    Note: My husband has never said that to me, but I like to remind myself that I really AM working!!

    • Krysten says:

      Thanks for sharing the link – it made me laugh! I just had one of *those* days yesterday where I was completely exhausted by 9:00 and the whole house was a wreck. But now I can think about what it would have looked like if I hadn’t been working all day long! =)

    • Julie says:

      Great link! Both my husband and I were sick for a week so very little got done in my house. I was just digging out of that mess when school was canceled for 4 days due to snow. I was finally starting to make progress again when school was canceled again today. Some day soon I might actually find my kitchen counters and get caught up on the laundry!

  • robyn says:

    your “messy” kitchen is cleaner than my “clean” kitchen! love your kitchen…

  • Sherry says:

    I can’t wait to try the new cinnamon swirl bread recipe when it’s perfected. I was thinking about it today when I was in Kroger looking at bread! 🙂

    Your blog has inspired me to start my own to help my friends save money. There’s really no savings blogs in central va, so I’m excited to be sharing info I’ve learned with my community.

    Blessings on your day and your cooking. 🙂

    • Chrys says:

      Mind sharing your blog link? I live in Charlottesville, and used to follow Mrs. Moneysaver, but seems she passed the baton to someone else…

      • Sherry says:

        Hi Chrys,

        It’s going to be — my man is still creating the website. I hope to have it up and running in the next 2 weeks. Right now, I email my friends daily all the deals I find. 🙂 I’m so envious of your Harris Teeter and Rite Aid. We don’t have that in Lynchburg! 🙂

        Blessings to you! 🙂

  • Anna says:

    I like a clean kitchen. I can not sit down until the kitchen is cleaned up and dishes washing and/or put away.

  • A clean kitchen is such a fine thing! 😀 Love yours.

  • Shantique says:

    I saw someone earlier ask WHY you use turbinado…but what IS turbinado?? I have seen this term on your site before and never paid attention. But that oatmeal looks yummy and I’m wondering if adding chocolate chips would make my girls start to eat some!!

    Hubby has been on a diet and he is eating more oatmeal, so I would love to help him flavor it up without using sugar (or sugar substitutes).

    • Megan says:

      Turbinado is a less refined form of sugar. It’s the evaporated crystals made from the first “press” of the sugar cane. So, while it has a few more trace nutrients in it than refined, white, sugar it’s not exactly health food. I recall Crystal saying awhile back that they’re trying to move toward less refined sweeteners. I find that a teaspoon of honey (20 calories) does a good job of sweetening my whole bowl of oatmeal 🙂

      • Kari says:

        Rapadura (a natural sugar), maple syrup, and raw honey are the only sweeteners we use. Rapadura is great for oatmeal because it has a high molasses content and is similar to brown sugar. 🙂

      • Sarah says:

        I also like to cook oatmeal in milk – it adds protein, nutrients, creaminess and just a touch of sweetness.

    • Lana says:

      It is raw sugar. Sugar in the Raw that you may have seen at your grocery store is turbinado. I love it but I wish it was not so expensive.

  • Chris says:

    I love different variations of oatmeal. I like to cook it with half water and half milk, throw in a few dried cherries, some vanilla and cinnamon. Then when it’s done, I like to add half an apple and half a banana chopped up, with a few choc chips. Serve with just a tiny bit more milk (helps cool it off). Eat with a spoonful of peanut butter. This is probably my favorite. has some awesome ideas for oatmeal.

  • Jenni says:

    I like to start cooking off with a clean kitchen too, but my question is, what kind of craft can you have all three of your kids sit down to without you having to be there too, especially your little boy? I have a 3 1/2 and 1/2 year old, both boys, and for them to sit and do a “craft” by themselves would spell disaster!

    • I was thinking the same thing about the kids crafting by themselves. Our 3 1/2 year old could manage it. But our son (2 1/2) would make a total mess, insist he was finished in a matter of minutes, and leave me with even more mess than before.

      Also, what videos are good on Jelly Telly? I’m in search of 30 minute videos (free online) that the two oldest can watch while I put the 1 year old down for her morning nap.

      Thanks, so much Crystal for all the hard work you put in to make so many lives just a little easier 🙂 I know God has blessed you for your work and I pray he will continue to do so.

      • Crystal says:

        I just recently discovered Jelly Telly and the girls have been enjoying the Adventures in Odessey episodes.

        By the way, having a six-year-old and three-year-old who have longer attention spans seems to be hugely helpful in encouraging Silas to learn to have somewhat of an attention span, too. He still makes plenty of messes (like the marker on the wall earlier this week!), but I’m finding it’s much easier when you have at least one “older” one!

  • Lana says:

    My kitchen looks almost like yours! It was the selling point for me too, i shopped for a kitchen first of all!

  • I am so thrilled that I am not the only one who occassionally snacks on plain chocolate chips!!! 🙂

  • rachel says:

    I was wondering if Silas is watching the show. I have a 3 1/2 year old and a 1 1/2 year old and to get them to sit in front of a show does not happen. I can sometimes get the 3 1/2 but the 1 1/2 never. I know it is a good thing but 1 a week I could use a little time to get something done.

    Also, does Silas do the art projects at the table? I am trying to get my 1 1/2 year old to do them but she is done within about 5 minutes. It takes longer to get the playdough and materials out than she acutally plays with it. Then I feel bad because the 3 1/2 year old wants me to play with her but I am chasing the 1 1/2. Any suggestions?

    • Crystal says:

      Silas will sit and watch a 30-minute video most days. But it helps that I make it a special treat and his sisters are all excited about doing it. So then he thinks it’s the “cool” thing to do. 🙂

      My encouragement to you is that it gets easier. Your children are at difficult ages, but I promise that it’s only a season. When your 3 1/2 year old gets a little older, they will probably have a longer attention span which will also encourage your 1 1/2 year old.

      Have you tried using a high chair/booster seat with straps or a playpen? I’ve used those successfully to keep a child in one location while I’m working with an older child. I’ve put together a basket of special toys that only come out during Playpen Time.

      • rachel says:

        Thanks for the tips I will try making a special toy basket. She can climb out of the playpen. Maybe we will try doing crafts at the table with highchair instead of using there table. That way I can keep her in one spot.

  • Kari says:

    If that’s messy then I don’t quite know how to describe my kitchen…
    I have four sons (11, 11, 8, 5) and we eat a whole foods diet on a budget. Doing so requires me to make pretty much everything by scratch. The only time my kitchen is clean is when everyone is in bed….even then, I have bowls of soaking nuts or sourdough on the counter, dehydrator out, or something in the crockpot… boys call them my “science experiements.” 🙂

    With four boys, you can only imagine what the rest of my house looks like…it’s a lot like Lord of the Flies over here… 😉
    Actually, I’m thankful that three out of four go to school most of the day. It allows me to get most stuff done and doesn’t interrupt our family time in the evening.

    • Crystal says:

      It sounds like your messes are “productive messes” (as I like to call them!) so you’re doing a great job! And I’m pretty sure your boys would rather have good food to eat and lots of it than a clean kitchen. 🙂

    • Lisa says:

      Take comfort – I feel the same way about my kitchen. I do try to prioritize it because we have an open floor plan and it is visible almost from the front door. Oh well, I tell my guests that I would never have anyone over if I waited until everything was spotless. Plus, the sign in my guest bathroom reads “my house was clean yesterday, sorry you missed it.” So appropriate!

  • Angie says:

    My question is: How do you get Silas to sit still and do crafts at the table? Are his older sisters helping him lots and keeping him occupied. I have a 2 year old and I can’t imagine him wanting to sit still and do crafts. He’d rather be pulling everything out of the kitchen cupboards. He will sit in his chair and look at a book, play with a toy, eat a snack, etc. But not for too long. 🙁

    • Crystal says:

      Having older sisters really helps as he wants to be involved in what they are doing. He doesn’t always sit still for that long, but he’s more inclined to stay put if his older sisters are focused on doing something and he’s trying to join in and “help” them.

    • I’m totally with you – my “older” son’s way (he’s 3) of keeping his little 1 year-old brother occupied is to sit on his head or raid the pantry together. Last week they pulled the warehouse store stash of toilet paper and decorated my room with it . . . sigh :).

  • Rae says:

    I love the little peeks at your house from different posts. It is so pretty I love it. And I don’t know if the walls were already painted those colors or if you did it (I remember you saying that after you buy your house you probably wouldn’t stick with white walls but not sure if you painted them when you moved in or not). But either way, it is beautiful and very welcoming 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      The walls were already painted when we bought the house. I truly have loved the previous owners’ choice in paint colors and am enjoying something other than white walls — after almost eight years of only having white walls! 🙂

      • Rae says:

        Yeah I know what you mean. All the military housing I have been in has had stark white walls in every room. You are allowed to paint with the housing office’s approval but then you have to paint it white again before leaving and I am just too lazy to do that lol.

  • dee says:

    My all-grown-up hubby makes more of mess in the kitchen than that all by himself in 10 minutes flat. 🙂
    Bless you and your beautiful kitchen… and your gorgeous kids. I know how you feel about wanting a lovely kitchen.
    I got my dream kitchen when I was in my mid-40’s. (I’m in my 50’s now.) My kids were in high school and middle school. We moved in on Dec 17. All 5 kids (+ 2 friends) were in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies together the first weekend we lived here. And we all fit! That was my dream come true.

  • Abbie says:

    Still hoping for your cinnamon swirl bread recipe! 🙂 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    Your dirty kitchen is pretty clean!! Mine gets very overloaded. I guess 6 people will do that quickly.

  • I am so laughing about the chocolate chips because I sneak a million handfuls of those Enjoy Life chips when I have them on hand in the kitchen LOL! I really like their small size, seems like it makes the bag last longer. And I like the fact they are soy free as well!

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  • Julie C says:

    Thanks for sharing about Jelly Telly. Handfuls of chocolate chips reduce stress and save a lots of money on therapy–very frugal! ;.)

  • I also wanted to add an encouragement to wives & moms who do not have dishwashers. Dirty (even rinsed) dishes stacked on the counter can look really messy. I’m striving to have the dishes washed after every meal. I’m not doing it perfectly, but when I do it really helps the kitchen look more streamlined, clean, and put together.

    Also, I’m on the search for a drying rack that can fit inside one side of my sink. Sometimes even clean dishes in a drying rack can make the kitchen seem messy. My mom has one and having that little bit of counter cleared can make a big difference.

    Any other tips from non-dishwasher folks?

    • Crystal says:

      I have been amazed at how much cleaner my kitchen starting looking once I had a working dishwasher (didn’t have one that worked for the first six years of our marriage). It truly makes a big difference.

      • Rae says:

        I had such a poor quality one in one of the military housing units we lived in that I didn’t even bother using it because I’d have to re wash 90% of the stuff anyway so it was a waste of water and detergent. However, it didn’t go to complete waste… I used it as a hidden drying rack lol. I’d wash dishes, put them in there to dry then shut it (but leave the top rack sticking out a tiny bit so the door was still a bit open and let airflow but we still didn’t see the mess. Making the best of what you have right? 🙂

    • Stephanie says:

      I have a plastic drying rack that is slightly tilted in the sink and I can let the dishes air dry. I usually can go back and put them away in the time it takes to microwave a cup of coffee or answer the telephone. We have 5 people in our family, I try to do dishes after each meal and then there is no dried on food.

      My MIL shared the best tip with me years ago, when she is starting a meal she runs dish water and cna use it as she goes and then your cooking dishes are ready to put away when the dishes you eat off of are ready to be washed.

    • Emily says:

      We did not have a dishwasher last year. I have a drying rack that fits in our sink – I bought it at Target (and it was not expensive). I know I have also purchased one at Bed, Bath & Beyond. It really is helpful!

      We have a dishwasher now, but I still hand wash dishes nearly everyday. I only run the dishwasher on Sundays, since we have 12+ place settings and it’s just two of us now. I’d definitely check target or BB&B for a rack, if I were you!

      • Dishwashers are amazing things! It really helps to keep things cleaner!
        Three children getting older sure make more messes than when they were littler, don’t they?
        I love your colors too! Your kitchen is beautiful!

    • jennifer says:

      Last weekend we started our remodel of our kitchen, we made a space for a dishwasher but it will be a while until I save for one. (We didnt have one before) the strainer I use is the small metal wired one covered in a plastic type covering. It fits perfectly in my sink. I too find that I have to wash dishes all day to keep my kitchen looking cleaned. If you would like me to send you a picture feel free to email me…… Walmart, Kmart, and Big Lots sell them for around $8. Good luck!

  • Dana says:

    Thank you for sharing the Good, the Bad & the Ugly…it’s an encouragement to me to know I’m not alone…and mess is just part of LIFE…although hopefully less of it as time goes by.

    On Monday I had what I call, one of my most overwhelming and anxious days in regarding to feeling “homemaker” stressed, that I just can’t keep it ALL together…i.e. cook, clean, shop, be a good wife/mom/friend, eat healthy, exercise and take care of myself all at the same time…

    A book title came to mind “calm my anxious heart” and thought…Yes that’s excatly what I need. Later on a girlfriend of mine stopped over with her kids and she offered to help me organize my pantry while the kids were playing. We put the timer on and organized away. I felt that God was saying you’re feeling overwhelmed…well I’ll send you some help! We decided that whenever we meet for playdates we’ll also tackle some Hot Spots (10, 20, 30 min) at each of our houses.

    By end of the night…I could honestly say, I felt God calming my anxious heart…using my friend!

    • Crystal says:

      I love that! Thanks for sharing; it’s so helpful to have friends who “get” us and love us in spite of our imperfections!

      I think we can all relate to how you felt this week. I feel like that often. None of us have it altogether — and I’m so thankful for a wonderful God who encourages me and reminds me that He loves me despite my shortcomings.

      Hugs to you, Dana!

  • joanne says:

    Is that tea pot I see on the counter? Do you drink tea and if so what kinds are your favorite if you don’t mind me asking? I know weird question right?? LOL

    • Crystal says:

      I love tea! My favorite is Irish Breakfast with raw sugar and milk. I usually alternate between making tea and coffee every morning and it’s my little enjoyment while I read my Bible and check my email each morning! 🙂

      • joanne says:

        Thank You for answering!!! I will have to try that out, maybe alternating. I need to make myself sit down and enjoy some good tea. I find it very relaxing!. Love your blog Crystal.

      • Michelle says:

        I also alternate my days between coffee and tea. I found when I was drinking just coffee in the mornings, it was too much of an inhibitor and by alternating my days with hot tea, I found balance. :o)

        • Chelsea says:

          I also alternate! Though late I’ve been doing coffee in the morning, hot tea after the kids go down for afternoon naps and I’m able to check my mail (and finish my mug without interruption!). I find that finishing a mug of coffee or tea is a daily challenge for me 🙂

  • Denise C. says:

    I love oatmeal, & never thought to add chocolate chips! Chocolate for breakfast (lunch & dinner) works for me! 😉 Your kitchen is beautiful.

  • Autumn says:

    Ohmygoshness! I just made your butter horn recipe and made half into rolls. With the other half, I rolled the dough out really thin and filled it with ham and cheese to make hot pocket type thingys. They turned out fantastical!

  • Mari says:

    You always find the best markdowns – I want your health food store 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    I love your kitchen! I’m so happy for you that you found the perfect house for your family. We are in that process right now, in Kansas City! 🙂 We have found the perfect house for us, but we aren’t sure the builder will agree to the perfect price. Ha

  • Joslin says:

    This is totally unrelated to your cooking day, but what kind of booster seat is that?? I am looking for a new one for my toddler and I haven’t seen one like it. It seems like most of them are only a few inches off the seat and I am trying to find one that sits much higher-like yours.

  • I just had a mini freezer cooking day and feel great to have it done. We are gluten free and we have a vegetarian so coming up with meals isn’t always easy. Here are some recipes that I have made to tide us over for a bit:

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